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Uncommon Time

Uncommon Time: Five

L. Pierre – Baby Breeze (2005)

Wow. I’ve been listening to (and loving) this track for years but not until a few days ago, when it came on in the car, did I realise it was actually in 5/4. I guess the elongated time signature helps to emphasise the drawn-out orchestral flourishes, which bloom and overlap like celestial clouds. Sorry, got a little poetic there, but I do love this track. Heavenly.

The Five-Star Tour – Porcupine Tree

Porcupine Tree – The Sound Of Muzak (2002)

If you write a song lamenting the descent of music into demographic-targetted, packaged crap, you’d better make sure it’s a cracking good song. No worries with Porcupine Tree in the driving seat. Musically there’s a great contrast between the muscular 7/4 verse (also meriting inclusion in my Uncommon Time series!) and the sumptuous common-time chorus. I even appreciate the lyrics, which is very unusual for me. Steven Wilson sings clearly and writes to-the-point lyrics, which probably don’t win any awards for poetry but cut to the chase adroitly. For example, ‘The music of rebellion / Makes you wanna rage / But it’s made by millionaires / Who are nearly twice your age‘.

The Five-Star Tour – Plaid

Plaid – At Last (2011)

The closing track from Plaid‘s 2011 album Scintilli, this one’s a beauty (and also fits into my Uncommon Time theme, being in three or six time) – a concise summary of Plaid at their finest.

(although I’m not massively keen on their official video for it…)

Uncommon Time: Thirty-One

Ozric Tentacles – Fetch Me The Pongmaster (1988)

From way back in the Ozrics‘ mighty back catalogue, this might be badly in need of a remastering but it is an excellent distillation of their potential. Trippy, swirly, astral, a little goofy, but always with that something extra to elevate it above bland ‘chill out’ music. Often that’s Ed Wynne‘s stellar, virtuoso fret work, but also here a little trick to the time signature. The 31/8 is actually simpler than it sounds, being three groups of 8 and one of 7 – i.e. just a half-beat missing at the end of each four bars; just enough to give it that little glitch, a little complexity in the pattern, and refocus one’s attention on the spinning, glittering synths and guitars.

Uncommon Time: Sixes and Sevens

Midlake – Core of Nature (2010)

Midlake‘s third album, The Courage of Others (2010), is sumptuously melancholic – rich melodies and harmonies almost dripping with feelings of sadness and regret. It’s a very consistent album which makes for a satisfying experience and this song represents the whole nicely, whilst switching between six* time and seven time.

*or maybe three, but I decided I preferred to think of it in sixes, to go with the sevens – although I must say I hoped to find a better established origin of the phrase “at sixes and sevens“…

Uncommon Time: Six

Beach House – Take Care (2009)

The closing track from Beach House‘s majestic 2009 album, Teen Dream. They just hit upon such a magical formula for this album, which they continued with last year’s Bloom. This might be my favourite track from Teen Dream and perfectly showcases their expert layering of melodies, richly instrumented, all in 6/8.

Uncommon Time: Six

Lusine – Stratus (2013)

Bang up to date with this one! I’ve been enjoying Lusine‘s recent album, The Waiting Room, a lot and I realised that this storming number was actually in 6/4 so a perfect candidate for this column. House and techno are perhaps the genres most naturally rooted in 4/4 time so it’s great to hear something a little more … uncommon!

Uncommon Time: Three

Mew – The Seething Rain Weeps For You (2005)

I love Mew, and although they have slightly been suffering from diminishing returns with each album, they get away with it because the magnificent Frengers (2003) set the bar so high. They combine saw-toothed guitars with a Scandinavian sense for soaring melodies (see also: Sigur Ros) and aren’t afraid to go all prog once in a while.

Uncommon Time: Seven

Mark van Hoen – She’s Selda (2010)

I’ve no idea who Selda is, but this is a lovely bit of brooding, drifting electronica in seven time. This is a great introduction to the style and ambiance of Mark van Hoen, who really came to my attention in a big way last year.

I couldn’t find a link to the song on YouTube, unfortunately, and I think uploading it myself is probably illegal, so the best I can offer at present is a Spotify link – if you have access to Spotify hopefully this will work; if you don’t, maybe it will anyway?

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